The European Commission has adopted the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, on 14 October. I would like to comment on how the Commission has made its communications and what their emphasis is.

A simple two-page ‘Factsheet’ (source) states:

The Chemicals Strategy will:

  • Ensure better protection of human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals
  • Boost innovation of human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals
  • Enable the transition to chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design

It is a first step towards the Zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment announced in the European Green Deal.

Clearly these topics are intended to sound forward-looking. The main actions listed in the factsheet are a well-balanced summary of the main points of the strategy itself:

  • Banning the most harmful chemicals in consumer products – allowing their use only where essential
  • Account for the cocktail effect of chemicals when assessing risks from chemicals
  • Phase out per – and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the EU, unless their use is essential
  • Boost the investment and innovative capacity for production and use of chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design throughout their life cycle
  • Promote EU’s resilience of supply and sustainability of critical chemicals
  • Establish a simpler “one substance one assessment” process for the risk and hazard assessment of chemicals

The new phrase safe and sustainable appears in the headlines and is present several times in the Press Release that announced the Strategy. In that release, some other action areas are listed:

  • Developing safe-and-sustainable-by-design criteria and ensuring financial support for the commercialisation and uptake of safe and sustainable chemicals
  • Considerably stepping up enforcement of EU rules both at the borders and in the single market
  • Putting in place an EU research and innovation agenda for chemicals, to fill knowledge gaps on the impact of chemicals, promote innovation and move away from animal testing

It is interesting to note the general lack of emphasis on REACH compliance, reduction of animal testing, and the registration of polymers.

So this Strategy has been welcomed by many NGOs concerned about toxic chemicals, and by consumer-oriented companies; it has been seen in negative terms by some industry groups.

Green Chemical Design Limited welcomes the increased opportunity to participate in the development of safe and sustainable chemicals.

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